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Donald Trump’s unhappy NATO visit as US and Europe drift apart

European leaders annoyed by Trump’s calls to increase defence spending, making NATO look too obviously like a protection racket.

Alexander Mercouris

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Having been showered with compliments in Saudi Arabia and Israel, Donald Trump’s visit to Europe where he has met the US’s formal allies in the NATO and G7 formats, have gone unhappily.

Despite efforts on both sides to patch things up, it is impossible to avoid the sense that Trump and his erstwhile “allies” don’t like each other very much.  Not only has Trump had uncomfortable meetings with Merkel and Macron, and not only did his shoving aside the Prime Minister of Montenegro look like a snub, but I doubt that Trump himself realises how irritated most of his European allies are by his constant calls that they increase their defence spending.

These calls Trump made again during the summit and in blunt language and at extraordinary length

The NATO of the future must include a great focus on terrorism and immigration, as well as threats from Russia and on NATO’s eastern and southern borders.  These grave security concerns are the same reason that I have been very, very direct with Secretary Stoltenberg and members of the Alliance in saying that NATO members must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations, for 23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they’re supposed to be paying for their defense.

This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States.  And many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years and not paying in those past years.  Over the last eight years, the United States spent more on defense than all other NATO countries combined.  If all NATO members had spent just 2 percent of their GDP on defense last year, we would have had another $119 billion for our collective defense and for the financing of additional NATO reserves.

We should recognize that with these chronic underpayments and growing threats, even 2 percent of GDP is insufficient to close the gaps in modernizing, readiness, and the size of forces.  We have to make up for the many years lost.  Two percent is the bare minimum for confronting today’s very real and very vicious threats.  If NATO countries made their full and complete contributions, then NATO would be even stronger than it is today, especially from the threat of terrorism.

There is no doubt that Trump himself sincerely believes all this, and doubtless from his point it is obvious that it is simply unfair for the US to pay such a disproportionate amount of the Western alliance’s defence burden.

However the US’s NATO allies will have noticed that these words contain no reciprocal pledge from the US to ‘defend’ them come what may, and they are bound to see Trump’s calls for them to increase defence spending as a form of blackmail, implicitly threatening them that unless they increase their defence spending the US will stop ‘defending’ them.

A point which few Americans understand is that some European states – Germany being a case in point – anyway deliberately underspend on defence in the belief that if they spent more on defence the US might one day conclude that they no longer need to be “defended” by it.  For these states Trump’s calls that they spend more on defence sets this all on its head, calling their bluff in a way they particularly dislike.  It does not help that in Germany’s case Trump during their summit made further comments which all but accused Germany of taking the US for a ride on trade.

Beyond that there is the never expressed but always present doubt about what NATO is really for.

The USSR – the ostensible threat from which NATO was supposedly set up to defend Europe from – no longer exists, which begs the question of what NATO is really for, and from whom or what the NATO is actually “defending” Europe from, and what the purpose of all this extra spending really is.  By constantly harping on the subject Trump threatens to strip away the illusion that NATO is actually “defending” anyone from anything, and makes NATO look more like what it really is, which is a gigantic protection racket.

Needless to say that is not something the European members of NATO like to be reminded of.

The simple fact is that since the end of the Cold War the glue that has held the Western alliance together has become overtly ideological, with the members of the alliance seeing themselves as joint partners in an overtly ideological neoliberal enterprise.  When the leader of what is by far the most powerful state within NATO makes it perfectly clear that he has no belief in that enterprise, and insists on talking about money instead, that inevitably makes the others unhappy.

That more than anything else explains the unhappy mood music of this summit, which contrasts so strikingly with Trump’s far happier interactions with President Xi Jinping of China and Foreign Minister Lavrov of Russia.

This is a situation which in the history of the Western alliance has never existed before – of a US President interacting more happily with the alliance’s “enemies” than with its members.  Moreover so long as Donald Trump remains US President it is difficult to see how it can change.

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Soros Mimics Hitler’s Bankers: Will Burden Europeans With Debt To ‘Save’ Them

George Soros is dissatisfied with the current EU refugee policy because it is still based on quotas.

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Via GEFIRA:


After the Second World War, many economists racked their brains to answer the question of how Hitler managed to finance his armament, boost the economy and reduce unemployment.

Today his trick is well known. The economic miracle of Führer’s time became possible thanks to the so-called Mefo promissory notes.

The notes were the idea of the then President of the Reichsbank, Hjalmar Schacht, and served not only to finance the armament of the Wehrmacht for the Second World War, but also to create state jobs, which would otherwise not have been possible through the normal use of the money and capital markets, i.e. the annual increase in savings in Germany.

The Reich thus financed the armaments industry by accepting notes issued by the dummy company Metallurgische Forschungsgesellschaft GmbH (hence the name Mefo) rather than paying them in cash. The creation of money was in full swing from 1934 to 1938 – the total amount of notes issued at that time was 12 billion marks. The Reichsbank declared to the German banks that it was prepared to rediscount the Mefo notes, thus enabling the banks to discount them.

Because of their five-year term, the redemption of notes had to begin in 1939 at the latest. This threatened with enormous inflation. Since Schacht saw this as a threat to the Reichsmark, he expressed his doubts about the Reich Minister of Finance. But it did not help, and Schacht was quickly replaced by Economics Minister Walther Funk, who declared that the Reich would not redeem the Mefo notes, but would give Reich bonds to the Reichsbank in exchange. At the time of Funk, the autonomous Reichsbank statute was abolished, the Reichsbank was nationalized, and inflation exploded in such a way that Mefo notes with a circulation of 60 billion Reichsmark burdened the budget in post-war Germany.

George Soros also proposes such a money flurry in the style of Schacht and Funk.

Soros is dissatisfied with the current EU refugee policy because it is still based on quotas. He calls on the EU heads of state and governments to effectively deal with the migrant crisis through money flooding, which he calls “surge funding”.

“This would help to keep the influx of refugees at a level that Europe can absorb.”

Can absorb? Soros would be satisfied with the reception of 300,000 to 500,000 migrants per year. However, he is aware that the costs of his ethnic exchange plan are not financially feasible. In addition to the already enormous costs caused by migrants already in Europe, such a large number of new arrivals would add billions each year.

Soros calculates it at 30 billion euros a year, but argues that it would be worth it because “there is a real threat that the refugee crisis could cause the collapse of Europe’s Schengen system of open internal borders among twenty-six European states,” which would cost the EU between 47 and 100 billion euros in GDP losses.

Soros thus sees the financing of migrants and also of non-European countries that primarily receive migrants (which he also advocates) as a win-win relationship. He calls for the introduction of a new tax for the refugee crisis in the member states, including a financial transaction tax, an increase in VAT and the establishment of refugee funds. Soros knows, however, that such measures would not be accepted in the EU countries, so he proposes a different solution, which does not require a vote in the sovereign countries.

The new EU debt should be made by the EU taking advantage of its largely unused AAA credit status and issuing long-term bonds, which would boost the European economy. The funds could come from the European Stability Mechanism and the EU balance of payments support institution.

 “Both also have very similar institutional structures, and they are both backed entirely by the EU budget—and therefore do not require national guarantees or national parliamentary approval.“

In this way, the ESM and the BoPA (Balance of Payments Assistance Facility) would become the new Mefo’s that could issue bills of exchange, perhaps even cheques for Turks, Soros NGOs. Soros calculates that both institutions have a credit capacity of 60 billion, which should only increase as Portugal, Ireland and Greece repay each year the loans they received during the euro crisis. According to Soros, the old debts should be used to finance the new ones in such a way that it officially does not burden the budget in any of the EU Member States. The financial institutions that are to carry out this debt fraud must extend (indeed – cancel) their status, as the leader of the refugees expressed such a wish in his speech.

That Soros is striving to replace the indigenous European population with new arrivals from Africa and Asia is clear to anyone who observes its activities in Europe. The question is: what does he want to do this for and who is the real ruler, behind him, the real leader?

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The French People Feel Screwed

For the first time in his presidency, Macron is in trouble and Europe and America are looking on.

The Duran

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Authored by David Brown via The Gatestone Institute:


On December 4, French Prime Minister Édouard Phillipe told deputies of the ruling party, “La République en Marche”, that a proposed fuel tax rise, which had led to the largest protests France has seen in decades, would be suspended.

The protesters, called Gilets-Jaunes — “Yellow Vests,” because of the vests drivers are obliged by the government to carry in their vehicles in the event of a roadside breakdown — say that the fuel tax was the last straw from a president who took office with a promise to help the economically left-behind but instead has favoured the rich.

Even by French standards, the protests of the “Yellow Vests” during the weekend of December 1 were startling. Burning cars and vast plumes of grey smoke seemed to engulf the Arc De Triomphe as if Paris were at war. Comparisons were drawn with the Bread Wars of the 17th Century and the spirit of the Revolution of the 18th Century.

For more than two weeks, the “Yellow Vests” disrupted France. They paralyzed highways and forced roads to close — causing shortages across the country – and blocked fuel stations from Lille in the North to Marseilles in the South.

During protests in France’s capital, Paris, the “Yellow Vests” were soon joined by a more violent element, who began torching cars, smashing windows and looting stores. 133 were injured, 412 were arrested and more than 10,000 tear gas and stun grenades were fired.

One elderly lady was killed when she was struck by a stray grenade as she tried to shutter her windows against the melee.

There was talk of imposing a State of Emergency.

The “Yellow Vests” present the most significant opposition French President Emmanuel Macron has faced since coming to office in May 2017. Unlike previous protests in France, which have divided public opinion, these have widespread support – 72% according to a Harris Interactive Poll published December 1st.

Fuel tax rises — announced in November before being retracted on December — were intended to help bring down France’s carbon emissions by curbing the use of cars. Macron makes no secret of his wish to be seen as a global leader for environmental reform.

He forgets that back at home, among the people who elected him, fuel prices really matter to those outside big cities, where four-fifths of commuters drive to work and a third of them cover more than 30km each week.

The increases have incensed people in smaller communities, where they have already seen speed limits reduced to please the Greens and cuts to the local transport services.

These additional costs-of-living increases come at an extremely bad time for ordinary French people working outside of Paris. Lower-middle class families are not poor enough to receive welfare benefits but have seen their income flat-line whilst cost-of-living and taxes have risen.

An analysis by the Institut des Politiques Publiques think-tank shows that benefits cuts and tax changes in 2018 and 2019 will leave pensioners and the bottom fifth of households worse off, while the abolition of the wealth tax means that by far the biggest gains will go to the top 1%

This is tough to swallow. Macron is seen as being out of touch with ordinary people and is unlikely to escape his new title, “the President of the Rich.”

“People have this feeling that the Paris technocrats are doing complicated things to screw them,” said Charles Wyplosz, an economics professor at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.

It is probably not as complex as that. The French people feel screwed.

As employment and growth are slowing, Macron, for the first time in his presidency, is under serious pressure. Unemployment is at 9%; his efforts to reform Europe are stalling, and his approval rating has plummeted to just 23% according to a recent opinion poll by IFOP.

Images of Macron at the Arc De Triomphe daubed in graffiti calling for him to step down, or worse, have done little to bolster his image abroad.

So far, Macron had said he would not bow to street protests. To underline his point, in September 2017, he called protestors against French labour-market reform “slackers”.

The political U-Turn on the fuel tax is a turning point for the Macron presidency. The question is : What next, both for Macron and the “Yellow Vests”?

Macron most likely needs to plough ahead with his reform agenda, and doubtless knows he has the support of a solid majority in the National Assembly to do so. France is crippled by debt (nearly 100% of GDP) and its grossly bloated public sector. There are 5.2 million civil servants in France, and their number has increased by 36% since 1983. These represent 22% of the workforce compared to an OCDE average of 15%.

Tax-expert Jean-Philippe Delsol says France has 1.5 million too many “fonctionnaires [officials]. When you consider that public spending in France now accounts for 57 per cent of gross domestic product. Soon the system will no longer function as there will be less and less people working to support more and more people working less”.

Macron’s mistake, in addition to a seeming inclination for arrogance, is not to have made national economic reform his absolute priority right from his initial grace period after his election. Lower public expenses would have made it possible to lower taxes, hence creating what economists call a virtuous circle. Instead, he waited.

Now, at a time when he is deeply unpopular and social unrest is in full sway he is looking to make further reforms in unemployment benefits, scaling them back by reducing the payments and the length of time beneficiaries can receive the money. The “President of the Rich” strikes again.

There is talk that he may also re-introduce the wealth tax to try to placate the protestors.

Macron’s presidential term lasts until May 13, 2022. Understandably, Macron will be focused on the elections to the European Parliament expected to be held May 23-26, 2019. Headlines have signalled that Marine Le Pen and the National Rally (formally National Front) are ahead in the polls at 20%, compared to Macron’s En Marche at 19%.

The shift is understandable, given the divide between the countryside, where Le Pen has solid support, and the cities, where Macron’s centre-left prevail.

In contrast, the “Yellow Vests” have galvanised support after standing up for the “impotent ordinary”, and seem much buoyed by the solidarity they have been shown by both fire fighters and the police. There are images online of police removing their helmets and firefighters turning their backs on political authority to show their support for the protestors.

Whilst Macron’s political opposition may be fragmented, this new breed of coherent public opposition is something new. Leaderless, unstructured and organised online, the “Yellow Vests” have gained support from the left and right, yet resisted subjugation by either.

Being leaderless makes them difficult to negotiate withor to reason with in private. The “Yellow Vests” seem acutely aware of this strength, given their firm rebuttal of overtures for peace talks from the Macron government.

Enjoying huge support from the public and with reforms to the social welfare system on the horizon, the “Yellow Vests” are not going away.

For the first time in his Presidency, Macron is in trouble and Europe and America are looking on.

After Macron rebuked nationalism during his speech at the armistice ceremony, Trump was quick to remind the French President of his low approval rating and unemployment rate near 10%. A stinging broadside from Trump on twitter suggests that Macron may well be relegated to Trump’s list of global “Losers“:

“Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two – How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!”

The “impotent ordinary” in the United Kingdom, who might feel betrayed over Brexit, and the nationalists in Germany, who have suffered under Merkel , are no doubt staring in wonder at the “Yellow Vests”, wishing for the same moxie.

The historian Thomas Carlyle, chronicler of the French Revolution, said the French were unrivaled practitioners in the “art of insurrection”, and characterised the French mob as the “liveliest phenomena of our world”.

Mobs in other countries, by comparison, he argued were “dull masses” lacking audacity and inventiveness. The blazing yellow vests of the French protest movement , however, have made Macron appear increasingly dull and weak too.

David Brown is based in the United Kingdom.

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Theresa May steers UK towards hardest BREXIT or nullification of referendum (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 35.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at the tragedy that has fallen up May’s disastrous Brexit deal. The UK Prime Minister has now delayed a critical Brexit vote well past the new year, as she runs to Brussels to seek “assurances” from EU oligarchs.

Meanwhile in a stunning decision that is sure to be leveraged by multiple EU member states, the European Court of Justice has ruled that Britain is free to revoke Brexit unilaterally.

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As Zerohedge reports, ‘Meanwhile In Brexit… Total Chaos’:


It has been a furiously chaotic day for Brexit developments, which considering the “organized” nature of the process to date, is saying something.

Just a few hours after the embattled U.K. prime minister announced to the House of Commons she would “unexpectedly” delay the critical Brexit vote – facing certain and humiliating defeat – and return to Brussels to seek “assurances” from European Union leaders, the fate of any upcoming votes to ratify the deal is now in limbo.

As ITV’s Richard Peston reported, “it appears that UK PM May could keep the current talks with EU going well past January 21st “perhaps right up to Brexit day 29 March, and avoid any parliamentary Brexit vote,” effectively eliminating a popular vote of disapproval for her process.

That, as Bloomberg notes, raises the prospect that May will be back in Parliament in January with virtually the same deal, relying on tanking markets, a crashing pound and frightening no-deal preparations – including even more doomsday rhetoric from the Bank of England – to convince lawmakers to back her. Sadly for May, the parliamentary arithmetic won’t have changed, as only an election can do that. And an election is out of the question as May will almost certainly lose her job, potentially resetting the Brexit process back to square one (or perhaps minus one).

Meanwhile, with the Brexit vote in parliament indefinitely postponed, the UK Parliament will debate the vote delay for three hours on Tuesday according to House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, assuring even more drama and chaos.

The debate was demanded by opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who said May has shown “disregard for Parliament and the rights of this house” by making a “unilateral” decision to delay vote on her Brexit deal. While the debate won’t be binding on May’s government, contributions “will reflect anger” at May avoiding what was predicted to be a heavy defeat of her deal in House of Commons, according to Bloomberg.

Even so, Corbyn won’t table a “no confidence” motion against Theresa May’s government until there’s been a formal vote on the withdrawal agreement, effectively trapping May in a no way out situation.

And while the domestic chaos hit previously unseen levels, in Brussels European Council President Donald Tusk called a leaders’ meeting on Brexit for Thursday, but made it clear that the EU “will not renegotiate the deal” even as he tweeted that “we are ready to discuss how to facilitate ratification.”

Amusingly, it’s not just Europe that refuses to renegotiate the deal: Irish PM Leo Varadkar was also on the tape re-iterating that the deal cannot be renegotiated.

All this is happening as May’s critics hate the agreement she negotiated because, as BBG notes, they think she’s allowing the U.K. to be trapped in the EU’s orbit indefinitely – a situation they consider even worse than current membership.

To that end, the Daily Mail’s tweeted that Brexiteers claim to have heard of “a couple more” letters of no confidence in Theresa May going in tonight, which means that should the total surpass 48, May’s cabinet may fall even before a vote in Parliament is held… if one is held to begin with.

If that wasn’t enough, juggling a seemingly infinite number of variables, May said the government will step up preparations in case Britain does crash out of the bloc on March 29, which is less than 4 months from now. She once again brought up the threat of no-deal – the worse-case scenario for business – as a weapon to try and bring rebellious Conservatives on both sides of the Brexit debate into line.

To be sure, as the Brexit chaos hits previously unimaginable levels, traders no longer are able to follow every twist and turn in this melodramatic tragicomedy, and appears to be resigned to just sell the pound as it now appears that the only thing that can get the pound to surge – i.e., get a Brexit deal – is if the pound first crash. It did so today, with sterling hit the lowest since April as the market either judged that the risk of no-deal Brexit has increased, or realized that the only way to get a deal is to scare parliament into voting for May’s deal.

So what happens next? Nobody knows.

As Bloomberg reports when pressed by members of Parliament to tell them when she would bring the deal back, May refused to answer, saying only that Jan. 21 served as a deadline because it’s the date in the law when the government has to report back to Parliament on what it’s doing if there’s no deal.

“The worst case is no vote until January 21,” according to Societe Generale SA strategist Kenneth Broux, adding that the longer it takes, the lower the pound is likely to fall.

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